Saturday, May 7, 2011

8 train dream-trips for my traveling kids

Amtrak has declared that today is National Train Day in the United States. I'm not in the US, and I'm usually not a fan of "made-up" celebrations, but I kind of like this one. Probably because I have a soft spot for train travel, and so do my kids.

Airplane travel is definitely fast and convenient, but train travel has a lot going for it. Number one, it's more of a "multi-dimensional" experience than airplane travel. It can also be a great way to travel with kids:
  • No one needs to drive and get grumpy fighting traffic or filling up at gas stations.
  • If you have a sleeping car you can take a nap in the day-time or sleep all night (or at least try!). 
  • Children can move around and look at the scenery, play games and eat their meals while you're traveling.
We once traveled up to northern Sweden from Stockholm on the overnight train with the kids, and it was a great experience (even though I wish they'd had some kind of food service on board...): showers, beds, the joy of being rocked on the rails at night... awesome.

Waiting for the train in Uppsala, Sweden, summer 2008.

So, in honor of this special day, here are some train trips I would love to take my kids on, ranging from the probably-doable to the to-do-when-I-win-the-lottery:

1. Cross-Canada railway adventure
I've written before on this blog about wanting to drive across Canada with my kids, but the ultimate cross-Canada trip would be on-board a train. Every now and then I check out VIA Rail's website for prices... One day...

2. The Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to the Rockies
Traveling with the Rocky Mountaineer looks a lot like a cruise, but on rails. And with the kind of scenery you get in the Rockies, you really need the famous domed coach to see all the peaks. I'd love to go on their Grand Rail Circle with the kids and my parents: it really is a grand round-trip where you get to see Lake Louise and Jasper in the Rockies. Not cheap, but when I win the lottery, right?

3. Traveling the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to California
I keep telling my husband that when we go to Disneyland with the kids, this is how we should do it: a train trip from Vancouver to Los Angeles. I'd love to see the Pacific Coast that way!

4. The Orient Express
If you have a thing for train travel, like I do, you have obviously thought about this trip. I want to do the classic (Agatha Christie style!): London to Venice. It's fancy and expensive, but I think it would be a fantastic experience. Kids 11 and under get 20% off! (I'm still breaking the bank, but hey, it's all my imagination anyway.)

5. Sweden to Greece
This was my first big train journey, going from Stockholm to Athens as a teenager, with my best friend and an interrail pass. I'd love to make this trip again with my kids, because it goes right through so many different European countries and cultures. Back when I did it, we traveled through communist Yugoslavia, and had the border police waking us up to check passports in the middle of the night. Also, when I do this trip with my kids, I won't make the same mistake as when I was a teenager: forgetting the bag with all our food at the Central Station in Stockholm...

6. Sweden to the Algarve coast, Portugal
I did this trip, again with an interrail pass, many years ago as a solo traveler. It was a fantastic experience, and I'd love to show my kids some of the wonderful places on the route: Barcelona, Seville, Granada with the beautiful Alhambra palace. I'd like to take the kids all the way to Lagos, Portugal. That's where I got off the train and eventually met the man who is now my husband. Yea, doing this train journey would be a great trip down memory lane!

View from a Swedish train.

7. An Indian adventure
Ever since I was a teenager and watched the British TV-show The Jewel in the Crown, set in India, I've nursed the dream of going to India and traveling through the country by train. Would it be a tough trip with kids? Maybe, or maybe not. I do think there would be a wealth of experiences in store for them and me. The website A Beginner's Guide to Train Travel in India looks like a good place to start planning.

8. The Trans-Siberian railway
Just like with the Orient Express, I think most people who have a thing for trains have considered this trip. It's in a part of the world I've never been to, with so much history and scenery and adventure! (Yes, adventure with an exclamation mark). Would it be wise to bring kids along on this trip? I tend to think it would be. Maybe it not be relaxing and "easy", but again: full of experiences. As for my dream-trip planning, I've been looking at and this Russian site: Russia's Trans-Siberian railway.

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